EVANS, WALKER (1903-1975) Forty-six gelatin photographs dating from his 1933 trip to Cuba,
printed 1933. Vintage gelatin silver prints, the largest 8 x 10 inches (203 x 254 mm), all in unmounted state, trimmed to the image area. The prints are not signed, titled, dated, or stamped. Each is annotated on the verso "Hemingway Collection" in black ink, and most are neatly matted for presentation. The collection is accompanied with a signed note on Commercial Cable Co. of Cuba stationery, addressed to Hemingway from Evans, conveying this set of images to him, together with the original envelope (from the Ambos Mundos Hotel, Havana), marked "Mr. Hemingway" in Evans' hand, and with a note on the obverse "loaned $ 25.00" in Hemingway's. The prints are generally in very good condition. Some silvering commensurate with age is noted along the edges. Minor bends, creases, indentations and other defects are present, though none of these are especially impactful, and a full inventory, together with note of any defects, will be provided upon request. The tones are generally commensurate with images stored in a tropical environment. There are varying degrees of slight discoloration, the shadow and mid-tones range from dark brown to light yellow in tonality, and the highlight areas are occasionally a little faded.
This remarkable survival, a collection of 46 vintage prints, taken and printed by Walker Evans in Havana, Cuba in 1933, was given by Evans to Ernest Hemingway during the month that Evans was in Havana, taking photographs for The Crime of Cuba. The two became friendly, and the note speaks of a loan of "ten or fifteen dollars" (which appears to have ultimately been twenty-five) an offer which Evans had apparently previously turned down but decided the following day to accept.
The 1933 Cuba trip was a major early assignment for Evans where, at the behest of the publisher J. B. Lippincott, he was to prepare images for the forthcoming book by Carleton Beals, The Crime of Cuba. This was an exposé of the brutal American-sponsored regime of President Gerardo Machado (which ended in the collapse of his government towards the end of 1933). In the course of this trip he took some four hundred images.
Hemingway had arrived in early April on a fishing expedition on a thirty-foot cruiser (the Anita) rented from friends in Key West. Evans wrote "I had a wonderful time with Hemingway. Drinking every night. He was at loose ends and he needed a drinking companion, and I filled that role for two weeks." When Evans ran short of money (having been robbed early in his stay), Hemingway loaned him sufficient to stay on for another week. Most accounts indicate that Evans gave these prints to Hemingway to ensure that, if his pictures were seized by the regime, these images (which he likely deemed to be especially important) would make it back to the United States. In the event, no problems presented themselves, and his cache of film made it back complete, and this collection remained with Hemingway as a gift.
The trove includes eleven images likely appropriated from newspaper sources by Evans, showing the brutalities of the regime, including bloodied corpses. But the majority--thirty-five--are his own, all in what are likely the earliest available printings. These present a stunning visual document of Cuba at the period, and though taken early in his career, they bear all of the aesthetic hallmarks of Evans' later work.
These images were exhibited as Ernest Hemingway and Walker Evans: Three Weeks in Cuba, 1933 between 2004-2008 as follows:
Key West Museum of Art and History at the Custom House, Key West, Florida, 1/15/04-1/10/2005
Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca Raton, Florida, 9/7/05-11/20/05
Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina, 12/9/05-2/19/06
Rebecca Randall Bryan Gallery, Coastal Carolina University, Conway, South Carolina, 9/8/06-11/3/06
Naples Museum of Art, Naples, Florida, 11/20/06-01/5/07
Emerson Gallery, Hamilton College, Clinton, New York, 2/15/07-4/15/07
Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, Jacksonville, Florida, 03/08/08-06/01/08.
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